When Liadan Hynes’ marriage fell apart she had to work on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, ‘Things Fall Apart’ she explores the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves. Here she explains how a single parent’s relationship with their child can differ from other parents
I’m not going to suggest that the relationship you have with your child as a single parent is better, more intimate, than that of other parents. Of course I’m not. Parenting is difficult enough without introducing some sort of competitive intimacy stakes. And I don’t believe that anyway.
But it is different. A lot of the time, it is just the two of you – and that produces a particular kind of dynamic. Not better, not worse, just different.
They’re there, then gone
Sometimes, it feels more extreme. Because it is just you and them for a great deal of the time. And then it is just you. They are gone, to the other parent, or to grandparents, while you shove in the other parts of life that cannot be done when they are around. Work, friends – whatever it might be.
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They are the person with whom you share slow, lazy, long-weekend mornings; where the phone is off, and you both lounge around in your underwear because it’s too hot for anything else. But then the next night they are gone, which is actually fine because you need a break, but also strange and unsettling, and you miss them madly and watch videos on your phone.
Your domestic person
You can have friends and family who will do the dishes when they come around; who know how to get to Netflix on your TV; turn on the heating or make a cup of tea.
But your child is your domestic person. The person with whom you decide when you’re getting a takeaway, what takeaway that will be. Spend your evenings with. Enjoy a just post food shop full fridge with. All the small domestic details that pile up to make a life.
And when you want to retreat home because things feel a bit noisy – the world feels a bit much – they are the person who shares that retreat with you. They are your baseline person.
Together, we’re a unit
Sometimes, because it is just the two of you, it feels like you can go off-grid in a way you might not otherwise.
Maybe because you’re a more portable unit, the two of you. You can afford to not concur to the regular schedule of things. At the moment, we are still on a holiday bedtime schedule. Which means Herself goes to sleep sometime between 10 and 11 pm. Which means we have long evenings to do with what we want.
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We go to dinner at family’s; then confide to each other we’re ready to go home; stop into Lidl for a food shop at 8 o’clock; get supplies for the pancakes we plan to have the next morning.
We lie in late in the mornings, sleeping as late as 10.30; lying in bed, chatting. Nowhere to be, and delighted with ourselves. We potter in the evenings; I have some work and she sits beside me, writing in her notebook.
The older they get, the more they are a little person – and the more of a pleasure they are your person.
Once you get beyond the hurt and the upset of your life going another way, then most of the time it just is what it is. Not better or worse, just different. Anything else is a narrative, someone else’s narrative, of what things should be like. Not a thing to hold yourself up to. It doesn’t matter. Your day-to-day reality is what matters.
Feature image: Wesley Tingey via Unsplash
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